BERLIN - The event got off to a slow start due to threatening weather, but excitement built as the evening went on as the Freedom Fest began Tuesday at the Berlin Fairgrounds.
Dreamland Amusements, hosts of the event, delayed the opening of rides for nearly two hours until thunderstorms were safely out of the area.
“Opening day is always crazy” said Michelle Kramer, office manager of Dreamland Amusements. “It was just a weird circumstance with the weather.”
Still, the smell of funnel cake, bright lights of rides and popping of balloons for prizes filled the air for those who made it out.
“I love the idea,” said Jonathan Miller, of New Britain, who was there with his 11-year-old daughter, Arianna. They were no strangers to the fairgrounds, having visited in years past for the Berlin Fair, he said.
The Berlin Lions, who host the Berlin Fair on their grounds and use Dreamland Amusements for rides and entertainment, came up with the idea of another event for the Fourth of July week.
“There isn’t anything like this in the area during (this) week,” said Peter Porter of the Lions Club before the event. Dreamland Amusements marketing manager David Erickson said his company had an opening this week so it agreed to stage the Freedom Fest as a test run for possible future events.
It features carnival rides, games and food in the upper portion of the fairgrounds, along with a sideshow-style World of Wonders.
Alcoholic beverages aren’t available at the Freedom Fest, nor are community food booths, so popular at the fair, but the booths could be added if there’s enough support for them, Erickson said.
Dreamland Amusements is covering all costs, and is using USA Security Services of Glastonbury for parking and overseeing the grounds, with the help of a few Berlin police officers.
“We were going to go to Six Flags today, but decided to come down here because this was going on,” Jonathan Miller said. “We normally go to the Stanley [Quarter] Park thing in New Britain [the Great American Boom], but...it might be a little more lively here, so we might come back here tomorrow. Looks like there is a little more here.”
“Cool prizes,” said Arianna Miller. “And I kicked his butt and I won this one,” she added, after playing basketball, the balloon-popping game and more.
“Definitely think it should go on next year,” she added.
Lisa Capolla, Frank Delbuco, and 3-year-old Lilly Delbuco came from Wallingford. Lilly was eating an ice cream cone with sprinkles.
“We saw it on a website and was like, ‘Oh hey, let’s go,” said Frank Delbuco.
“Hopefully, it will be fun when it starts,” said Capolla, as they waited for the rides that turned on around 8 p.m. as the orange sun shone over the grounds. “The rides look really fun.”
“Pretty wild,” said Mike Carpinteri, of Berlin, who rode The Sizzler with his 5-year-old nephew, Sonny Schofield, of Cromwell. “Definitely feeling dizzy. I’m still trying to get my bearings.”
The event runs from 4 to 11 p.m. today and Saturday, which is when fireworks will be set off at 9:30 p.m. It is open from 5 to 11 p.m. on Thursday and Friday. Admission is free, but guests must buy tickets for the rides and pay to play the games and get food.
A demolition derby is scheduled for Friday at 7:30 p.m., but tickets must be purchased online in advance at dreamlandamusements.com.
The National Weather Service forecasts mostly sunny weather today, Thursday and Saturday, but Friday is shaping up as a potential washout, with a 90 percent chance of rain. Temperatures should be in the 80s and 90s throughout.
“Those people that don’t go to the lake or camping or vacationm this is a good spot for them to hangout,” said Kramer. “(Wednesday), we’re going to be so on it.”
For more information, visit dreamlandaumesmants.com.
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or firstname.lastname@example.org.